Tourists in Costa Rica have a new ally who won’t take them across ziplines or serve them Imperial beer, but who will make their vacation here more memorable by helping to prevent unpleasant memories.
The Public Safety Ministry graduated its first class of Tourism Police last week. Outfitted with distinctive uniforms and equipped with shiny new bicycles and motorcycles, these 113 men and 9 women have been trained on how to tackle a growing crime problem officials worry could threaten tourism, one of Costa Rica’s main sources of revenue.
The first class of Tourism Police was deployed to San Jose and Alajuala, northwest of the capital, the north-central area surrounding Guanacaste province and the Caribbean province of Limon.
The 122 officers will work to protect visitors from theft-by far the main crime affecting them-among other deliquent acts.
Criminals often prey on tourists because they think they can’t defend themselves and that they won’t report the crime because they don’t know Spanish. Also, tourists’ carelessness or quickness to trust people can make them easy victims according to some.
One of the new Tourisn Police’s specialities will be offering “customer service” such as warning tourists about common traps such as leaving their belongings in a rental car. Additionally, these officers have received training in criminal analysis, organized crime bands and falsification of documents.
The idea isn’t that the Tourism Police appear only after a crime has been committed. They are there to inform tourists, give them advice or just help them if they need directions, like guides.
The Tourism Police is expected to boast 120 more officers next year and grow to 400 officers within four years, expanding to other areas around the Central Valley.